The new face of the anti-bullying movement belongs to a young woman who once had trouble seeing its reflection in the mirror. Lizzie Velasquez suffers from an extremely rare disease that leaves her unable to gain weight – at twenty-five years old, Lizzie has never weighed more than sixty-two pounds.
When she was in middle school, she would wake up in the morning and see herself in the mirror and wish she could just “scrub off” her syndrome; she yearned to be like everybody else. One day in high school, Lizzie found a video someone had posted of her on YouTube labeling her “The World’s Ugliest Woman.” It garnered four million views and thousands of comments.
Shielded by the anonymity of the internet, a mob of faceless cyberbullies descended on the comments section of the video. They were relentless. They left vicious comments about her appearance, empowered by the fact that they could hide their own appearances behind their emotionless screens.
One commenter screamed “Kill it with fire!” while another urged Lizzie to kill herself; “to do the world a favor.” Lizzie was brought to tears by the unforgiveable comments, and she looked at the screen that had given voice to so much anger, and with her fingers hovering over the keyboard she thought about how she should respond – how she should fight back.
Lizzie didn’t reply to the cyber bullies. Instead, she sat back and decided that she wouldn’t allow their words to define her; she used their negativity to her advantage, and, she used their comments “as a ladder to climb towards [her] goals.”
She has now penned three self-help books and become a prominent motivational speaker, who delivered the most viewed TedWomen speech of 2013. Lizzie has become the confident face of the anti-bullying movement and is also working to inspire people to realize their potential and understand what defines them.
Lizzie’s inspiring Ted Talk inspired millions, and her story will soon reach many more, through the upcoming documentary, “A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story,” which will chronicle unheard stories and details of her brave journey and her efforts to persuade Congress to pass the first federal anti-bullying bill.
Although she suffered from an extremely rare disease, at the core of Lizzie’s story is the fact that she was treated differently because she looked different. Unfortunately, while Lizzie’s inspirational story is unique, her struggles with bullying and cyber bullying are shared by far too many.
Her story is not only one that needs to be told, it is one that needs to be heard.
I encourage everyone to look at and share the trailer for the upcoming documentary, “A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story,” download it from iTunes or visit the film’s site for more information. Keep checking back, subscribe, or follow me on Twitter to find out more about the movie, and read my interview with the filmmakers and Lizzie herself in the upcoming weeks.